Saturday 18 May 2013

The Coffee or Beer Price Comparison

There is a rallying cry behind the call for cheap games to be purchased blindly by other consumers. The sales pitch from fans of a game or shills who are paid to astroturf online discussions (isn't that an awesome thing that actually exists as a potential spend for advertising money) is that the consumer isn't losing much if the decision is a bad one. The golden example is via comparison: "it only costs as much as a pint/coffee!". The problem is this analogy breaks because you repeatedly buy identical drinks. If you waste money on a game you wasted a one-shot buy and almost certainly didn't gain any useful information compared to the value of the spend.

When you spend £2/3 on a drink to find you don't like it then it cost you that much to find out that (at only one a week - those who have the daily coffee retailer ritual on the way to work or who drink freely down the pub from only a select pool of tastes should try multiplying the numbers accordingly) you shouldn't spend £150/year on buying more of these. The potential benefit was that this could be your new favourite drink or drink you must buy when you're in that mood. The cost of a few quid is against a future potential spend of thousands on buying the same, dependable option over and over again, replacing a former choice with either a lower cost or better quality making the decision. No need to get a free taste when you've got that upside, give it a go when you're next grabbing a drink and expand your knowledge of the field.

When you spend a few quid on a game that is not to your tastes (and possibly not to anyone's by being plain bad) then you have spent that money that would otherwise buy you what could be 10+ hours of fun for nothing and you have not learnt anything beyond possibly steering clear of games from that dev (who release a product every year? in a pool of thousands of choices?) Even if you had otherwise continued to obsessively buy every game from that dev then it would only save you a few quid a year. Ye, not exactly a valuable bit of info to exploit in future sensible purchasing decisions.

The demo is a long established model to allow players to decide if they want to purchase your full product and if we really want to go by the numbers for beer/coffee then for a £5 games you should possibly offer a 5p demo to give the equivalent value to the total buy in vs the initial taste test. But at 5p then that is all going to middlemen (card processing etc) so you might as well give it away for free and see how many people want to own the full game. So rather than telling anyone that they should buy a game sign unseen because it is only as expensive as X, tell them to grab the free demo or check out this great LP/QuickLook and try before they buy. The only people who gain from consumers being uninformed is people peddling substandard wares. The way to long term health for the games development ecosystem is by trying our best to match up people with money with the games that give them the best value for that money. We don't want to scam a quick buck, we want to establish games as a major art form in the 21st Century that provide relevant entertainment and culture to the masses with each sale a best fit for that consumer.

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